BEIRUT — On Thursday, Lebanon’s newly formed government adopted its ministerial statement — a nine-page document detailing its priorities for its term in office.
Amid the country’s sprawling economic, financial, social and health crises, the priorities are many. If it is to succeed, the government must act simultaneously on a host of issues that have confounded previous governments, from electricity to budgets, from the environment to justice, from the Beirut port disaster to a health sector on the edge of collapse, from allocating the losses that caused the 2-year-old financial crisis to inventing an economy based on production, not rents.
On Monday, the remaining members of Parliament will convene to scrutinize the new cabinet and its proposal, and decide whether to end over 13 months of caretaker-status governments by granting Najib Mikati and his ministers confidence.
What follows is the full text of the new government’s ministerial statement, rendered in English by L’Orient Today translators Sahar Ghoussoub and Joelle El Khoury. As in the original Arabic document, it is addressed to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and MPs. We offer it here for your own scrutiny.
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“Together for the Rescue”
Your excellency and honorable MPs,
From the womb of the people’s pain and humiliation, which has weighed down on them to the point that desperation has almost become the norm in the lives of the Lebanese people, the loss of confidence in the homeland and the state, especially on the part of the youth — the country’s bloodline and creators of its future; from the heart of Beirut’s suffering, destroyed by the Aug. 4 explosion, which killed some of the city’s finest people, wounded others and inflicted immeasurable damage; our government was born to be a beacon of hope in the darkness, with strong determination and the will to persevere. … Yes, we are capable of succeeding through the joint efforts of those who are loyal to our beloved country, and through the hope we saw in the eyes of the Lebanese, who looked to us hoping to find salvation from their suffering.
Our government appears today before you to be granted confidence amid exceptional circumstances that require exceptional approaches consisting of pressing actions to deal with the current situation. Lebanon has been embroiled in an economic, social, financial and cost of living crisis that has pushed the country to the verge of complete collapse — an unprecedented crisis in the country’s modern history.
Amid the harsh circumstances that have been plaguing the country, as well as the collapse of the national currency and skyrocketing prices of goods, most Lebanese are no longer interested in political debates and stances, as their main preoccupation has become addressing their urgent problems and securing their daily bread.
Before we dive into the action plan the government is keen on undertaking, it is important to underline some national principles that would govern our cabinet’s work:
• Abiding by the Constitution’s provisions and the National Pact; respecting international laws and conventions that Lebanon has signed, as well as all international resolutions; confirming our commitment to implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701; continuing to support the UN forces operating in south Lebanon; and calling upon the international community to put an end to the ongoing Israeli violations and threats by land, sea and air to Lebanon’s sovereignty, in such a way as to ensure the full implementation of the UN decision.
• Emphasizing our absolute support for the army and all security forces in securing the border and keeping order across the country; protecting the Lebanese and their properties; and strengthening the state’s authority and the protection of institutions.
• Upholding the Armistice Agreement and seeking to liberate occupied Lebanese land; defending Lebanon in the face of any aggression and upholding its right to its waters and resources through all legal means; and stressing the right of Lebanese to resist Israeli occupation, counter Israel’s aggression and recover occupied lands.
• Resuming negotiations to protect and preserve Lebanese maritime borders from all sides.
• Following up on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon established according to UN Security Council Resolution 1757 in relation to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions, all the way until justice is served, to close this case by a deadline of no later than July 30, 2022.
• Paying necessary attention to the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr and his two companions in Libya and supporting the official follow-up committee to reveal the case’s circumstances.
• Confirming Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their land and not to resettle them in Lebanon.
• Following up on the return of Syrian refugees; strengthening communication with the international community to face the burdens resulting from the displacement of Syrians; insisting on the refugees’ safe return to their homes; rejecting any form of resettlement or integration; and implementing and reviewing, if necessary, the Lebanese government’s general policy document on the refugees’ return.
• Strengthening and preserving Lebanon’s international relations, notably with brotherly Arab countries; being keen on restarting the historical cooperation with Arab countries; and calling on our Arab brothers to stand by Lebanon in this ordeal as they have always done — and we are grateful to them.
• Strengthening Lebanon’s international relations and engagement with the international community and European partners in such a way as to serve the country’s highest interests; activating relations with the European Union; launching negotiations on partnership priorities; and activating the joint work committees between both parties in preparation to hold a Partnership Council meeting.
Emphasizing the proper functioning of the democratic process in Lebanon and believing that the essential rescue plan begins with translating the voters’ will in choosing their representatives, the government affirms its commitment to holding parliamentary elections on their scheduled date, as well as the municipal and mukhtar elections. As soon as it gains confidence, the government will take all the measures stipulated in the electoral law to complete the election process with full integrity and transparency and provide all means for the elections’ success.
To remedy the ongoing financial and economic collapse, our government vows, as soon as it obtains confidence, to take the following steps:
• Resume immediate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund in a bid to reach an agreement on a support plan based on a short- and medium-term rescue program based on an updated recovery plan, in tandem with starting the implementation of reforms in all areas according to the most urgent priorities to serve the public interest, and work to carry out the economic plan, committing to implementing it with Banque du Liban after it is approved by the government.
• Put forth a plan for reforming and restructuring the banking sector, where needed; revitalize the economic cycle in such a way as to contribute to providing the private sector with incentives while prioritizing the protection of depositors’ rights and funds.
• Seek, in cooperation with your honorable Parliament, to pass a law on capital controls, drafting a law that would address the financial and banking conditions that emerged after Oct. 17, 2019, notably in relation to transferring funds abroad and following up on the implementation of Law 214 of 8/4/2021 (the recovery of funds resulting from corruption crimes).
• Resume negotiations with creditors to agree on a mechanism to restructure the public debt in a manner that serves Lebanon’s interests and does not heavily burden the state, and find the best way to use funds acquired from the Special Drawing Rights so as to benefit from them sustainably.
• Value the French initiative and commit in full transparency to all of its provisions and to the recommendations of the Reform, Recovery, Reconstruction Framework (3RF); proceed with updating and developing a financial recovery plan and implementing the economic reform policy that Lebanon submitted to the CEDRE conference after re-examining the list of projects in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP); and benefit from the recommendations of McKinsey’s economic plan, especially in terms of supporting all productive sectors in preparation for the transition from a rentier to a productive economy to achieve social justice.
• Seek to correct salaries and wages in the public sector at all levels, based on study prepared by the Finance Ministry, taking into account the state’s financial resources and the state of public finances. In parallel, activate the work of the Committee on the Cost of Living Index and take the measures necessary to correct wages in the private sector.
• Endeavor to close illegal crossings and enhance control of the legal ones through the provision of modern and advanced detection and scanning devices.
• Reduce tax evasion, amend the public accounting law, expedite the completion of new customs legislation, and approve the comprehensive strategy for customs reforms and its implementation program, in addition to approving the law on modernizing real estate transactions
• Endeavor to execute the 2022 budget, with an emphasis on including reform items addressing public finances.
• Direct the current subsidy policy and limit it to eligible Lebanese residents, as well as move toward a social policy to bridge social gaps.
It is true that the immediate living and service challenges impose themselves as a priority at the current stage, but the general path of the state and its institutions requires an approach vis-à-vis all other structural issues that help in revitalizing the economy, developing productive sectors, attracting investment, and boosting confidence in the state, at home and abroad. The following points are the main issues that need to be tackled:
The judiciary and its independence: Finishing the appointment of members of the Supreme Judicial Council, carrying out judicial appointments and transfers; seeking to pass a law on the independence of the judiciary; speeding up court trials to serve justice and reveal the truth; and considering prison conditions.
The fight against corruption: Issuing implementing provisions of the laws in force; following up on the implementation of relevant provisions, notably those related to the the Public Procurement Law as soon as it enters into force; completing the appointment of the members of the National Anti-Corruption Committee; activating the work of supervisory bodies and enabling them to exercise their role; completing the procedures necessary for signing the contract related to the forensic audit of the accounts of Banque du Liban and initiating the necessary procedures for the financial audit of ministries, independent departments, councils, funds and public institutions; and taking the necessary measures in this regard according to the provisions of the law approved by your honorable Parliament.
Energy: Increasing the hours of electricity supply in a first stage; securing electricity for citizens as soon as possible; working on diversifying energy sources, while giving priority to natural gas and renewable energy; completing the implementation and update of the electricity sector plan and related reforms; establishing power generation plants according to the country’s needs with the participation of the private sector; completing the project to bring in natural gas through floating storage regasification units (FSRUs); giving priority to ensuring the ongoing supply of drinking water sewage treatment across the country; and working on preparing and approving the implementing provisions in relation to the Water Law. Regarding oil exploration, launching the second licensing round in Lebanese territorial waters, which has been temporarily postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and working to follow up on exploration operations in Lebanese territorial waters.
Social affairs: Striving to secure an economic, social and health safety net in a bid to restore purchasing power; activating social security institutions; expanding the coverage of various and diverse security benefits; enforcing the ration card project in cooperation with the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) project designed for the most vulnerable families; supporting all social care programs for the elderly, children, people with special needs and addicts; activating partnerships with non-governmental social institutions to enable households to face the removal of subsidies for imported goods; reinstating the loans provided by the Public Corporation for Housing; and seeking with your honorable Parliament to approve the retirement pension law.
The role of women: Strengthening the role of women as essential and active partners in public life; enforcing their right to equality and eliminating all forms of discrimination against them; and enabling them economically.
Health: Following up on the measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and intensifying the COVID-19 vaccination campaign so as to achieve herd immunity. Priority will be given to addressing the crises that beset the sector, including medication and medical supply shortages, particularly in hospitals, and the emigration of health care professionals. Developing health care services by enhancing the infrastructure of the public hospitals and primary health care centers; supporting and building human resources capabilities in health care; increasing health information technology investments; and working on shifting to primary and preventive health care while reducing inequality in access to health care and reaching universal health care coverage.
Education: Ensuring a return to normal this school and university year; ensuring that educational institutions have the basic elements of resilience; advancing and equipping public schools; ensuring quality education, especially in higher education institutions; following up on students’ conditions, especially the conditions of those from families that need help the most and students with additional needs; following up on the five-year action plan for curriculum development, which will help improve the quality of education and learning outcomes; and promoting the role of the Lebanese University and developing technical and vocational education in line with the labor market’s needs to build a national workforce that will contribute to economic recovery.
Industry: Taking urgent measures to develop a national economy based on specialized production; supporting and advancing the role of the institutions that are affiliated with the ministry (the Industrial Research Institute, the Lebanese Accreditation Council, the Lebanese Standards Institution) to ensure better quality of local products and imported goods with the aim of Lebanese products becoming highly competitive; promoting local Lebanese pharmaceutical and medical production; and encouraging the manufacturing of imported products locally and working on producing them with good quality and prices, and in sufficient quantities.
Agriculture: Supporting all agricultural sectors; encouraging the rationalization of agricultural production; collaborating with donor countries, institutions and organizations; advancing the role of agricultural cooperatives; supporting agricultural programs and projects; and developing the fisheries sector.
Communications: Rehabilitating fixed lines and the cellular network to ensure the continuity of telecommunications services, including internet and calls; developing a new vision that involves public-private partnerships in reforming the sector; issuing implementing provisions of Law 431 of 2002, which regulates the telecommunications sector; appointing the members of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority; activating Liban Telecom along with structural reforms in the sector; and working for the standardization of services and integration among the sectors (fixed cellular lines, internet and mail) that would help enhance services at competitive prices.
Environment: Developing a comprehensive strategy for sustainable development together with the participation of the civil society, universities and the private sector; protecting water sources from contamination in light of a new strategy; ensuring the enforcement of the law tackling the pollution of the Litani River and Lake Qaraoun; developing a national solid waste management strategy and an integrated strategy for the management of aggregate quarries, rock quarries and sand quarries; promoting integrity in this sector; supporting the green economy; amending the Hunting Law so as to help preserve biodiversity in Lebanon; and committing to the fight against air pollution and to the Paris Agreement.
Culture: Striving for Lebanon to restore its leading role as a cultural and civilizational hub at the Arab and international levels.
Media: Protecting the freedom of the press, abiding by laws and seeking to modernize them, as well as granting the National Media Council an active role after reconsidering its prerogatives and formation mechanism.
Transportation: Seeking to complete a comprehensive transportation plan; adopting a PPP mechanism; keeping up with technical, administrative and financial developments; taking the measures necessary to address the illegal occupation of coastal public property; and rehabilitating and reconfiguring the affairs of the Port of Beirut, as well as repairing what was damaged there, so that the port’s role is fully restored and it contributes once more to Lebanon’s economic growth.
Tourism: Modernizing tourism-related legislation; encouraging domestic and international tourism; setting up interministerial joint committees tasked with regulating the tourism sector; and relaunching the national council for the promotion of tourism to boost investments, finance marketing campaigns and reach out to new and emerging markets. This is in addition to developing and equipping the tourism information desk at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport in cooperation with the relevant administrations and reactivating the National Tourism Council.
State recruitment: Filling vacant posts through appointments that meet competence and integrity standards, removed from political affiliations; approving the civil servant performance appraisal law; and completing comprehensive surveys and job descriptions.
Displaced dossier: Seeking to close this dossier as soon as possible and examining the possibility of turning the Ministry for the Displaced into the Ministry of Rural Development, given the importance of rooting people in their villages.
Partnership and privatization: Promoting the role of the Higher Council for Privatization and Partnerships, strengthening its financial and human capacity and amending the privatization and partnerships law so as to attract investors and meet their demands while preserving the state’s rights; promoting the role of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon; and putting forward legislation that would create a pro-investment environment in all sectors.
E-government: Completing the digital transformation strategy along with its implementation plan; approving the e-government law with a unified national number for every citizen; and simultaneously implementing a national cyber-security strategy.
Diaspora: Gaining back the trust of the diaspora in Lebanon’s future and developing emigration tracking programs aiming to strengthen outreach, attract Lebanese human capital and manpower, benefit from their scientific, intellectual and economic wealth, and urge them to take part in the electoral process.
Administrative decentralization: Seeking with your honorable Parliament to approve the administrative decentralization law, based on the report that the committee formed for this end prepared, and which includes a completed draft law.
Although our government was formed to carry out pressing, rescue-oriented social, economic and financial missions, it affirms that it also seeks to protect all the Lebanese, regardless of their aspirations, particularly those who have taken to the street since Oct. 17, 2019, and demanded a life of freedom and dignity, as well as reforms that are now fundamental to saving Lebanon.
Our government recognizes that it has an obligation to listen to the voices and demands of young men and women, and to work to meet the demands that can be met, considering that this government is a rescue government at an exceptional, crucial and perilous junction, which necessitates taking unprecedented and unconventional measures that rise to the protesters’ ambitions and trust for a better future.
It also stresses its commitment to uphold the right to freedom of opinion and expression by democratic means, away from any practices that run counter to the ethics and values that Lebanon was built on. The government will also seek to implement Lebanon’s 2012 Youth Policy in countering the current challenges and meeting the aspirations and ambitions of the young people.
When it comes to the crisis of the Beirut port explosion, the government underscores its keenness on the completion of the investigation to determine the reasons behind the explosion, fully reveal the truth and hold the perpetrators accountable. It is also determined to work with your honorable Parliament to take the necessary actions related to immunities and privileges and overcome all barriers that prevent justice from being carried out.
Moreover, our government is committed to speeding up aid to the people affected, securing the necessary compensation for them, and developing a plan to rebuild this precious part of our beloved capital that was destroyed and damaged in the disastrous explosion.
Our “Together for the Rescue” government was formed out of the deep suffering of the Lebanese and Lebanon with a mission of rescue. We are looking forward to permanent and constructive cooperation with your honorable Parliament to translate our joint objectives of rescuing Lebanon, protecting the Lebanese, preserving their dignity, ending their daily suffering, stopping the emigration that breaks the hearts of all the Lebanese, restoring internal and external trust in Lebanese institutions, putting an end to the collapse and commencing the recovery process.
Our ambition is to bring about security, stability and advancement for all Lebanese so that all Lebanese families may reunite on Lebanese soil and together, we can rebuild what was ruined and do right by Lebanon and the Lebanese.
Your excellency and honorable MPs, we address the people through you:
There is such deep pain, large hopes and heavy burdens. Yet “what can’t be completely attained should not be completely forsaken.”
For the government program to succeed, the government calls on all parties to join efforts so as to ensure a clear political climate and the prevalence of positivity and hope that would encourage investments and make available the elements of economic recovery so that Lebanon is again a country where life is lived sweetly.
God help us achieve our joint goals, in the hope that we win your confidence and that of the Lebanese people and those deployed to the four corners of the world who are following with concern, hope and pain what is going on in their homeland, and who all stand ready to lend support and aid.
May God grant us success
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BEIRUT — On Thursday, Lebanon’s newly formed government adopted its ministerial statement — a nine-page document detailing its priorities for its term in office.Amid the country’s sprawling economic, financial, social and health crises, the priorities are many. If it is to succeed, the government must act simultaneously on a host of issues that have confounded previous governments, from...